Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Are you CrossFit Enough?

A few months ago, I posted “A public apology to my Mom”, in response to a conversation I had with a CrossFit trainer about the use of profanity. On November 25th, Lisbeth Darsh posed a similar question on the Affiliate blog. (I’m going to pretend like she got the idea from me, because that would be a really awesome compliment.) Lis asked, “Does CrossFit overexert itself on the sexual innuendo? Or the "F" bomb? Or are some people just too uptight? Do you encourage this edginess at your affiliate or do you stay out of it? Why?”

This entry received 84 responses – ten times more than the average post on the A-blog. I guess the subject hits close to home for many trainers and trainees alike. I posted my thoughts - that I’m a big fan of the f-bomb, but I plan to leave it out of my coaching program. Many agreed on the “keep it clean” approach for business, but just as many said to be yourself and if people don’t like it, too bad. Both points I understand, agree with to some degree, and respect. And then Spider Chick posted the following.

Now, I’m a Spider Chick fan. I think she’s a good role model for women. She’s strong, she’s tough, she’s confident and she moves weight. And I appreciate her sense of humor, and her commentary. Normally. But this kind of pissed me off. I’ve edited out some lines, but I assure you the message is intact. Read the whole thing here, if you prefer.

Some gyms are for old ladies and kids. Some are for a tougher, wilder breed of man-beast. The question is: do you want to struggle out a brutal WOD with Green Berets, or do you want to spin to Celine and then do lunch with the Junior League? Are you inspired by competing against Rugby players and UFC fighters? Or, do you find that you can clock your fastest Fran when you're challenged by a nursing mother?... For the sake of honesty, let's acknowledge that those who can truly forge elite fitness are going to be a rough crowd.

That being said, there may be more money in selling a program that is marketed as "forging elite fitness", and sorta looks like it's a tough-guy friendly gym, but in actuality, it's a mommy-and-me-too fitness playground with gluten-free hand chalk, a diaper changing station made of recycled material, and a verbally correct WOD that's fun for the whole lactose intolerant, peanut allergic family.

I choose to eat meat, wear fur, workout in a bra, leave sweat angels on the floor, weave a foul mouthed tapestry of lyrical filth, and exercise until I occasionally vomit. And, I'm willing to pay for the privilege of doing so in a place where tough guys roam unfettered by those who sell Avon.”

Huh. So my question to Spider Chick is this… Are those my ONLY two choices? I have to either grab my balls, drop the f-bomb at every clean and jerk and then vomit through my nose… or I have to take a spin class sponsored by the La Leche League and Celine Dion? Crap. I hate Celine, but I also hate to vomit through my nose. Those are some awful choices. I wish I had more options.

This is what I call the “CrossFit Enough” mentality. If you’re not swearing and spitting and falling down puking, if you don’t literally kick your clients in the ass, if you can’t train side-by-side with the Green Berets… then you’re not CrossFit Enough. If you’re not suffering at Gym Jones, killing it with Zach Even-Esh or getting yelled at by Coach Rip, then you’re not “forging elite fitness”

I call bullshit.

I’m not even going to get INTO this subject of “elite”. Not today, at least. But I will say that swearing, stripping and expelling bodily fluids does NOT make you “elite”. Training in the same gym as a UFC fighter does NOT make you “more CrossFit” than my Mom, scaling her box jumps at the Nashua YMCA. Vomiting at the end of a workout does NOT make you a “tough guy”. And dropping the f-bomb has absolutely zero, zilch, zip correlation to the effectiveness of your workout program or the quality of your performance.

I can curse, spit, strip and bleed with the toughest of the tough guys. I can hold my own in any training environment. And I swear a lot in my private life. It’s often hard for me to keep my mouth in check in while training clients. But I’m making the effort because that’s how I want to run my program. Now, I’m not going to cringe if someone curses, Michael Bolton will never sponsor my tabatas and I refuse to allow a 4# kettlebell in my classes. But I’m ALSO not going to belittle someone who says “darn” when they miss a lift, or a trainer who insists on a family-friendly box, or a new Mom trying to lose the baby weight with scaled workouts. If Spider Chick wants to delineate “real” CrossFitters from the “less than CrossFitters”, then fine. She can go play with Sara Scholl, and they can have a Bad-Ass-CrossFit-Off full of swearing and bragging and bleeding and stripping and establish once and for all that they are the Most Ultimate Elite.

As for me, I’m going to quietly and determinedly get back to my ass-busting. Or butt-busting. Or CrossFitting. Or politically correct, lactose-intolerant Mommy-and-Me inspired training. Whatever you want to call it is fine with me, because it all ends with me pulling heavy deadlifts.

Comments welcome from ALL points of view. Let’s hear it.


Feng said...

Well said, Melissa. In my opinion (and this is solely from a personal perspective), if some people seem to be continually able to shoot their mouths off cussing and swearing during a workout, while flinging themselves all around the place, they ought to be working harder. C'mon, channel the excess energy into something more productive! That being said, I guess everyone has their own styles and preferences when it comes to working out. If training in a tough-guy, bloodied-nose gym works for you, go right ahead. If you prefer a more measured approach with less profanity, run with that. Find something that allows you to maximize your own performance. It's all a question of individual motivation here.

Gant Grimes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gant Grimes said...

Nice post, Byers.

The referenced comment is the height of stupidity. Some people are more concerned with selling image than fitness. Whatever.

Rip keeps his radio tuned to Deep Tracks (classic rock on XM), requires that everyone be fully clothed, and discourages puking on his floor. Cursing is not the norm, and yelling only happens in support of someone attempting a PR (or if you're squatting with really bad form). Apparently Spider Chick needs to come fix our gym.

I am now offering a CF starter kit for men. $99 will get you some tribal tattoos, some clippers with a #2 guard, death metal CDs (for your youtube contributions), some George Carlin material (so you can speak correctly), board shorts, and several easy-off t-shirts (easy removable within the first 30 seconds of a WOD) with curse words on them. Act now and I'll throw in a razor, so you can remove all that pesky hair from your chest and stomach. Ya gotta have a smooth 6-pack to be doing handstands in public places.

Robzilla said...

Even the biggest beast starts out as a pup...

Dan said...

I think Spider Chicks post begs the question, can you be an awesome athlete without the cursing etc? I just got my Level 1 Cert and the instructors (who were awesome!) cursed like sailors, I got my KB Cert in Oct. and Jeff Martone(equally as awesome) didn't curse at all. I don't believe cursing=intensity, if it takes an athlete a lot of screaming swearing punching walls whatever to get hyped up then okay, do what it takes to get yourself mentally ready to put what you've got into it. Or if you're like Brooks Kubik(author of Dinosaur Training)and you look at the bar do a low, deep quiet growl at it to get yourself psyched up that's okay too.
I will say that if I were an affiliate owner and I were losing a chunk of my clients over one or two people that swore a lot then I would try to rein them in a bit (I'm not trying to tread on Planet Fitness ground) because being able to pay the bills by helping folks develop elite fitness wouldn't be able to happen with only a couple of firebreathers(unless their incredibly wealthy and I can charge them enough).

Anyway that's my two cents.

Jennifer said...

Gant - LOL! I'd like to counter offer with a CrossFit starter kit for women. It too will have a resale value of only $99 and will include a teeny sports bra with zero lining (this will let everyone know when the "turkey's done"), a bottle of self tanner, a sweat band, a pair of 1980's Oakley sunglasses, and a copy of "How to swear like a Sailor for dummies". Act now, and I'll include a free tutorial on how to take pictures of yourself with your camera phone in your bathroom mirror.

Jonathan said...

Everyone's different. It's ludicrous to exclude people on the grounds of language... from my personal experience, in my TKD club there is no swearing permitted as a mark of respect. This has no bearing whatsoever on how hard we train or how much the best of us could kick my ass in a hundred different ways on any given day. It's not even relevant.

And as for that Sarah Scholl post... I'm just not going to go there. I couldn't dig her a bigger hole than she can dig for herself.

Jenn said...

Well, shit. I wish I had known that stripping, spitting, farting and dropping the F-bomb in public was going to make me "more CrossFit." Now I can show everyone a side of myself that I normally reserve for my husband.

Spot-on commentary as usual, Melissa. Speaking as someone who is also scaling box jumps (among other things) at my YMCA, I'm not sure how my ability to swear (on par with a soldier) correlates with my fitness (just okay). As a client, yelling can motivate me, but cussing at me would probably get a trainer nothing more than "F*** you!" in return. Maybe that's just me.

As for Sarah Scholl's post(s)...well, I'm not touching that one.

LMAO @ Gant and Jennifer.

Lisbeth said...

Nice work, Melissa!

The comments here are excellent -- individual motivation is the key.

Then again, as a 43-year-old mother of two from Connecticut, I'm certain that there are people out there who think I'm not "CrossFit Enough" . . . but Greg Glassman apparently thinks I am. And that's good enough for me.

Still, I say go where you want, do what you need to, but keep an open mind, if you can. In the words of Brian Mackenzie at the CF Running and Endurance Cert: "I'm not going to make fun of soccer moms. Soccer moms have paid most of my bills for the past 14 years. You won't hear me say a bad word about them."

Kevin said...

I pretty much agree with what spider-chick had to say. And its not just because I would say the same thing, and I do tend to be a very harsh black&white individual when it comes to expressing my point of view. I played football that way, and that's one of the reasons crossfit appeals to me so much. Sometimes in this overly-sensitive la-la land of political correctness, you have to go BEYOND the point, in order to make your point. You need to turn the volume up to 11, and scare the bejesus out of people with how crazy you are. If you do that, in a sort of real-life hyperbole, then sometimes people get it. I understand where she's going, and I want to go there too. I think that post should be read a little less literally than it seems some people have taken it. I don't take my shirt off at the gym (to the benefit of everyone else) and I normally don't make much noise. What bothers me is the people that are bothered by it when I do. If people don't want to be loud that's fine, its their choice.....but it should also be fine if I want to call to Valhalla while doing 4plate plus squats.

Gant Grimes said...

"Jenn said...

Well, shit. I wish I had known that stripping, spitting, farting and dropping the F-bomb in public was going to make me "more CrossFit." Now I can show everyone a side of myself that I normally reserve for my husband."

Your house sounds like an interesting place.

Richard Vanmeerbeek said...

Don't even know where to start in this, sounds like an identity problem of some sort.

Crossfit is a personnal thing, it's about what you achieve and strive for in different domains, the rest is "silly BS", let the action and results speak for themselves. You have a dirty mouth ? You are more the quiet type ? It's your character, just be yourself and bust your ass everytime you train.

Aaron Trent said...

Interesting. I don't think you have to cuss and swear and spit to be "hXc" (hardcore). To be frank, if you have to proclaim your hardcore-ness then maybe you are not all that hardcore. For example, when I'm at my school gym I am very quiet. I squat or I deadlift, and chalk is not allowed, so I try to NOT attract attention. I'm pretty sure that I don't lift less weight because of being quiet. On the bike, I'm much more vocal. If someone almost takes me out you can bet I'm cutting loose. But in my hardest races (3km lasting 4 minutes or 1km lasting 75 seconds), if I could actually talk then I did not go hard enough. I might manage an eff bomb before almost falling off the bike after I finish, but it will be a weak gasp.

And let's not kid ourselves; training and cussing with Green Berets does not make you elite. Besides, what is "elite fitness"? How is that quantified, and what is elite fitness compared to an elite athlete?

Yvette said...

As a once nursing mother and trainer to soccer moms, this post kicks a$$!!

Achievement is achievement. So maybe my clients aren't tearing up a flying fran, but they're doing pullups and deadlifts for the first time in their lives! Most of them don't come from athletic backgrounds, yet they're busting butt every time they walk through my door (which happens to be at a YMCA). That's not crossfit enough?

This elitist mentality is absurd. I'm going back to the business of forging elite fitness...with WHOEVER wants to try!

Nick said...

Good post B-dog. As someone who frequents a CF gym that is full of a bunch of 20 and 30 year olds, with a handful of older clientele I can honestly say it doesn't matter. As long as everyone is giving it there all on their workouts that is what encourages me back. Whether they curse or not is there own choice.

But in regard to being badass enough, give me a break. We have a couple of straight up freaks in my gym (including an olympic athlete). Is she brought down by the father of five who is still working hard to get in shape, but has difficulties because of his parental duties? No...mainly because they both bust their @ss while there. It just doesn't matter if they are elite or not.

jen said...

Great post!
Look, I swear for sure. I had a bad mouth before CF it's not because of CF that I drop the bomb from time to time.
As for Karens post....well just go back and look at all of her posts on the front page. That's her gig to post(write) like that. Sorry Karen if you read this I know you would want me to be honest with my thoughts. I think Karen likes to beat her chest when she posts and says things that speak to a certaint Crew if you will.
Oh the other hand I've seen Karen do WOD's and enjoy herself with all types of people.
So yes, I dis-agree with Karen's ideas. I'm a Crossfitter and I for the most part don't have any Kipping pull-ups due to shoulder issues...Which means I don't have a "Fran" time does this make me less of a CF'er? If it does then I'll spit on the floor and say the F Bomb 10 times for time to cover my Crossfit membership!
I'm sticking to my guns....Crossfit is for everyone...F bomb tosseres and Celine lovers!

Rayne said...

Hey ya'll,

I like what you all have said already.

My own take is that the real sum of an athlete (this includes any trainee, ie: soccer moms) is thier williness to work hard.

If you go to the gym and piddle around, you are wasting your time. A "firebreather" will go, throw down with a serious objective and a never say die attitude, then you go home. This is training, this is "crossfit enough".

Swearing in your traininig session is no measure of intensity. It is mearly a demonstration of your lack of vocabulary and possible hypoxia.

Not quite dicking around on the internet and go train!


Juan Gonzalez said...

if your not cursing during a WOD your not pushing yourself hard enough.

Scott Seeley said...

I think these 'professional athletes' need to leave 'professional' frame of mind OUT of CF. That Scholl chick is way off base. She may use CF to aid in her 'professional' training, but CF was not established for nor marketed exclusively toward 'professional athletes'. I consider myself as a 'professional' in which CF is a tool I use to better myself at the most important game of all....LIFE! And besides, for being a proclaimed 'professional'.....I've never heard her name mentioned in the realm of 'professional' athletics.....just sayin!

Gabriel Sganga said...

Juan and I usually curse prodigiously during WODs. But its more of a spiritual f-bomb, and they're directed to the heavens and Glassmans. Less of a F*&^ S(*& C%^& MotherF%^&$#, and more of a F*******ck maaaaaaaaan...30 GHD situps hurt.

Staci said...

Amen. Thank you for eloquently arguing the point that one doesn't need to be crude to be CrossFit. That being said, I will confess to having a fondness for profanity when things get tough, and listening to heavy metal when hitting a metcon. But there's a time and a place for everything - my good sense doesn't get checked at the door of the box.

Keith W. said...

Melissa what the fuck is your motherfucking problem? :)

Seriously, I agree totally with your point. You don't have to have a frat house/military barracks to be a crossfit gym. Sure some people feel more comfortable in that situation and some people certainly do not.

The small box gym is great because it has personality and character. If you create a gym it should reflect you and your character. If you want a frat house, then great. If you want to play Celine, good for you (I'll wait in the car).

The crossfit gym is a community of more or less like minded people that is intentionally created by the owners and trainers.

I am on my second affiliate now. And the character and personality of the gym is far different than what I was trying to create at the Black Box. When I started the Black Box I made promotional barf bags, bottle opener key chains and had shirts that said, "Hostile Workout Environment." The intention and image was consciously trying to be more "hard core." My attitute towards training people was a little more brash and harsh.

Now that I started Virtuosity, I am trying to cultivate a different image and personality for my gym. The training is still hard, the workouts still kick your butt and the intensity is still there, but the personality and image is different. This isn't a boot camp gym. I don't want it to be. I want it to be less antagonizing. Does that make me a pussy? Probably to Spider Chick. Whatever. I'll suffer the slings and arrows. I like my gym and I like the community I am creating.

Anonymous said...

Nice article Melissa. Ironically, I saw "Spider Chick" compete at the Mid-Atlantic Hopper Challenge a few months back. I don't remember where she placed - it wasn't in the top ten, but I do know where my wife placed. She was actually third overall in the competition & almost won the second hopper workout of the day, which I know for a fact "Spider Chick" did not finish within the time limit. No big deal, my wife is a great CrossFitter. She is also the mother of my 2 year old daughter, & was 3 months pregnant at the time of the Hopper Challenge.

Good call "Spider Chick", sorry if my pregnant wife slowed you down. By the way, we have a diaper changing station at our gym.

Anonymous said...

I want to thank the anonymous poster above (whose wife sounds awesome) as well as you, Melissa. I just started Crossfitting 4 weeks ago. I can maybe do one pullup. I'm still learning most of the exercises and have to scale a lot of the workouts, because even though I was one of the stronger women in my old workout program, I'm relatively weak when compared to guys. I'm planning to get pregnant and will be forced to scale yet again for that. Because I do have a hard-core mentality, it's going to be hard to acknowledge the limitations.

According to Spider Chick, I'd have no F@#$ing business belonging to a "real" elite fitness program. I really resent her multiple anti-mom statements, though I'm not even a mother myself. Don't tell me I need to join a "wuss" gym because I'm cranking out another human being.

I really appreciate that my gym has welcomed me as a newbie into the program - and hasn't tried to make me feel bad about my fitness level. They don't play Celine and don't encourage me to puke.

But best of all, they don't elevate cops and green berets above nursing mothers. There's room for all of us - and our sweat angels.

Tom said...

There seems to be some confused idea out there amongst some that cussing and being "badass" is somehow correlated with work ethic or performance, which it is not. Totally mild-mannered, clean-mouthed people can hit huge jerks and crush Fran, just like tattoo-adorned, foul-mouthed 25-year-olds can be lazy and undetermined. And the opposite is true too.

There is a huge spectrum of people out there, from those who seem more like a summer camp counselor than a Crossfitter, to those who are so crazy scary you almost want to run away just looking at them. But that doesn't tell you jack about their work ethic or their fitness.

Sure, I've been known to drop an F-bomb after missing a heavy clean. I also make an effort to be a good example when there are other people, especially kids, around. And if someone asked me to tone it down, I wouldn't get offended.

To me, people that think you need to be a tattooed, shaved-head, skull-toting monster to be a good Crossfitter are just as bad as those who think heavy breathing and overhead lifting is ungentlemanly. Everyone needs to chill out.

There's a second misconception at work here that seems even more illogical, which is that "nursing mothers" and the like shouldn't be doing the WODs because they aren't "crossfit" enough. How does one become "crossfit" then? This second part is so absurd it almost doesn't deserve debate.

Just my 2 cents.

Matt said...

Melissa, great post. As I said on my post on the A Blog, there is a time and place for cussing. As for Spider Chick and her comrades, coming from a military SF background I know the type. As for CrossFit Enough, the affiliate I train at has clients from 17 through to 70 and I would regard them all as CrossFitters no matter what scaling they require to complete the WOD. But if Celine comes on Sirius while I am training anyone I am changing the channel....

Grace said...

Ok, it's time to crash the party! Your blog today moved me Diesel! Like you, it's "stiff-a-potty-lip" for me with some clients. However, the box's music is outright explicit...Rob Zombie, Metallica, Tools and the likes. No complaints so far! :)

Anonymous said...

Great post Melissa. Spider Chick et al seem to be missing the difference btw elite fitness and elitist fitness. I love that CF can work for everyone and that you can have firebreathers and grandmas doing the "same" workout. And that I can go as hard (or not) as I like and it's no-one's business but mine. Keeping ppl out of CF? Yeah, brilliant idea Sarah. Not. God forbid that CF should be helping the general population get healthier!?

Anonymous said...

Melissa a few points to consider:
1. I am a Green Beret and have been for 7 years. One day in a Iraq a foul mouthed fellow Green Beret cursed at and around the Iraqi Commandos we were training. Curse words were the only english they understood and took it as a mortal insult. Simple curse words while Green Berets were training Iraqis for life threatening situations almost led to a complete loss of rapport with our counter-part. Well shit, Green Berets can't always swear as much as most people think they can. The moral of this story is "know your audience." If you want to grab the ear of everybody who reads your blog you will write more professionally. If you want a raw, take-it or leave-it attitude than it doesn't matter.

2. I love your blog, wit and writing style. I'd appreciate it if you kept the cursing. Communication can be defined as "the transfer of emotion." You do that very well cursing. You are also dead on in all of your points.

Jonathan Sabar said...

Excellently stated! At my affiliate (DEFY! in Broomfield, CO), my general policy is to not censor my members' language at all (I'll talk to someone if they're specifically running someone down), but keep my own talk at PG-13.

It all comes down to professionalism - I run a business, and my job is to help people achieve their goals - not to indulge any personal sense of what constitutes "Tough".

Thanks for the great blog!

John Frazer said...

"Spider Chick et al seem to be missing the difference btw elite fitness and elitist fitness."

Well said.

During Christmas week I had a great time working out at CF Hampton Roads. They have a play area for toddlers in the back, and a married couple in the class had their infant on the sideline in a car seat. What better environment could there be for a little one?

On the other hand, I don't think I could work out at a gym that ever tuned to a station that would ever play a Celine Dion song.

kaleb said...

For me crossfitting and diet (zone), like many things I value and want, take discipline, control and dedication. My personal standards, as a father, and my desire to be able to effectively communicate with all audiences, all drive me to strive to have a 'clean mouth' both in public and in private.

To say that swearing makes you 'hard core' reminds me of kids from junior high who thought the same thing. They also though that getting laid or drunk made you a man. Seemed silly then too.

I defiantly prefer to be around people who keep their language clean. I find swearing slipping into my thoughts, if not my words when I'm around it to much.

Addi said...

I didn't really have much to add until I read your post, Kaleb. While I am definitely prone to using colorful language in my personal life and especially at the box, I try to keep it under control when kids are around. However, I often forget to consider how the other adults feel about it. I know that most of the crowd talks like me or worse, but I'm sure it makes some uncomfortable, which is definitely not my objective. I think a good rule of thumb is to know your audience, and to be sensitive to those around you.

That being said, WODs are a highly emotional thing for me. When I started CF a year and a half ago, I had a lot of weaknesses to bring up to speed - I've made a lot of progress, but I still have several pretty big weaknesses. During a WOD, I'm battling with myself physically and mentally - and when I don't think I'm meeting the challenge, I get emotional. Strike that, I get PISSED. I yell. I cry. I definitely don't watch my language. I've been known to kick med balls (not kettlebells, though - learned my lesson there) and throw abmats. It's probably not the most mature or impressive way to deal with these emotions, but it lets off the steam and gets me back on track.

I guess what I'm saying is, I am more than willing to keep my personal interactions toned down when appropriate, but during the WODs, all bets are off.

lin.k said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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Jody said...

I have 4 kids....breastfed beauties every one, drive a mini-van, have started eating clean and gluten free. I am allergic to peanuts, and I don't curse in front of children. Having said all that, I am pretty sure if you got me out on a triathlon long course with Spidergirl, she WOULD be puking, cursing and would almost certainly not cross the finish line. I, the Barbie soccer-mom, on the other hand, would finish....sans puking and cursing.....and I would offer her a politically-correct hand up from the ground where she collapsed. Badass has many disguises. And badass probably has more sportsman like behavior than badmouthing mothers trying to make their bodies healthy.

Tough is just a word. Tough is as tough does. Spidergirl, Honey Badger don't care. And he certainly doesn't give a sh*t who is working out beside him.

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